In what is becoming an annual event now, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with the minister for home affairs, P. Chidambaram, held a meeting with the chief ministers of states most affected by Maoist insurgency to review its counter-Maoist strategy in July. Following a series of setbacks, especially in Chhattisgarh where the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) suffered huge casualties in two different incidents and a very public outburst by the director general of police, Chhattisgarh against the CRPF which further strained the already tenuous relations between the two forces, there was immense pressure on the home minister to come out with a better idea of taking on the Maoists.
The big idea that emerged from the meeting was the tried and tested formula of the unified command that has proved successful in both Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. Hence, Centre’s recommendation to the worst-affected states — Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal — was to set-up a unified command to ensure better coordinated operations and perhaps a sense of collective responsibility. Since (despite home ministry’s persistence) the armed forces (army and the air force) still have a consultative and supportive (non-combat) role, it has been suggested that each state appoint a retired major general in an advisory capacity to these commands.
Also, the lead Paramilitary, CRPF, which has taken on the biggest brunt of the Maoists’ aggression, has been asked to appoint special officers of the rank of inspector general in each of these states who will represent not only the CRPF but by extension the ministry of home affairs in the unified command meetings as well as in the planning of anti-Maoist operations. Though some kind of a unified command structure was set-up in Chhattisgarh under the leadership of the state chief minister in February 2008, it has largely been ineffective with the state and the central forces waging their own wars.
On the monetary side, the Union government agreed to fund the establishment and strengthening of 400 police stations in the affected districts at the rate of Rs two crore per police station on 80:20 basis for a period of two years. This is in addition to the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) that the Centre provides to the states. Besides, the central government has also allocated Rs 2,475 crore for 55 Left-Wing Extremism affected districts in the nine states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal under the Backward Districts Initiative (BDI) component of the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY). Under this Scheme, Rs 15 crore per year was given to each district for three years so as to fill in the critical gaps in physical and social development of these areas.